Meconium Aspiration Syndrome

By Dr. Anukriti Singh|3 - 4 mins read| May 15, 2024

What is meconium ?

Meconium is a thick and sticky substance which becomes the first poop of your baby. It is thick and tar like in consistency with a dark green colour. Meconium is composed of shed cells of the intestine, hair, mucus, bile, intestinal secretion and other substances. Typically a newborn passes meconium within 48 hours of birth but sometimes they can pass it while in the belly of the mother itself. This put them at the risk for aspirating meconium.

What is meconium aspiration syndrome?

Aspiration means when something apart from air goes down the airway. Meconium aspiration syndrome is when the baby aspirates the meconium and it goes through the airway or the lungs. Meconium aspiration happens when the baby passes the meconium before birth.

It can cause breathing problem in your babies as it can block the airways, irritate the cell lining of the airway, block the production of the surfactants responsible for maturation and inflation of lung. Since meconium is very thick and sticky in consistency, it is difficult to clear it out of the airway by respiratory efforts alone. It can cause breathing problems in the newborn baby but it can be treated and has no long term adverse effects.

What causes meconium aspiration?

When your baby is under stress or not giving enough oxygen in the womb, it forces them to take deep or gasping breaths. This can lead to aspiration of the amniotic fluid present around the baby. If the baby has passed meconium before birth and the amniotic fluid is stained with meconium, it might be aspirated by the baby. Most babies who aspirate a little amount of meconium do not develop meconium aspiration syndrome.

Which babies are more likely to pass meconium before birth ?

Stress is most likely to cause the baby to pass meconium before birth. It refers to the physical stress of the body. Babies more likely to pass meconium before birth are:

  • Babies who are born post dated or born after the due delivery date.
  • Babies who underwent a long and difficult labour.
  • Babies born to a mother with diabetes.
  • Babies born to mother with hypertension.
  • Babies born to a mother who smoked or used drugs during pregnancy.
  • Baby who did not grow adequately before birth.

What are the signs and symptoms of meconium aspiration syndrome ?

The science and symptoms of meconium aspiration syndrome can be noticed just before or at birth. The things which your doctor will notice are:

  • The amniotic fluid is meconium stained and appears green coloured.
  • The body of the baby is streaked with meconium.
  • The baby has difficulty breathing.
  • The baby is breathing rapidly or grunting while breathing.
  • The body of baby is limp.
  • The body of baby is cyanosed or turning blue.

Is meconium aspiration dangerous for the baby?

Meconium aspiration syndrome is completely treatable if diagnosed early. It does not usually lead to any long term complications. But the newborn may be at a slightly higher risk for the following diseases, especially in the first year of life:

  • Pneumonia
  • Collapsed lung
  • Hypoxia
  • Asthma
  • Pulmonary hypertension

How soon does a baby recover from meconium aspiration syndrome?

Most babies recover from meconium aspiration syndrome within a few hours of starting treatment. Sometimes the baby may need to be admitted in the nicu for observation and treatment for a little longer. Though meconium aspiration syndrome is a dangerous condition, it is completely treatable when diagnosed early.

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About The Author:

Dr. Anukriti Singh

Last Updated: Wed May 15 2024

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